Free slaves? 1 Corinthians 9
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (1 Corinthians 9:19 NIV11)
What would you be prepared to do so that everyone might hear of Jesus?
We’ve already seen that Paul is engaged with a church who seems to have fallen out of love with their apostle and his message. It appears weak. He appears weak. It appears to lack wisdom. He appears to lack wisdom.
In chapter 9 Paul is defending himself against those, “who sit in judgement,” on him (9:3). He carefully works through his choice to forgo the right to material support from the church because he wanted to remove all the barriers to hearing the good news.
Along the way he makes the important point that, “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (9:14)
Paul clearly teaches here that their financial support of those who preach is indeed both a command from the Lord and his right as an apostle. Yet, he tells them that he gave this up and worked with his hands because he’s compelled to preach and it’s his joy to offer the message free of charge.
From here it’s not a big leap to make sense of his language of becoming a slave to his hearers. Paul puts himself second to those he loves so that they might hear the message of new life in Jesus. Paul will seek to understand them, accomodate them, adjust to them – all without changing the rock-solid gospel message of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:22–23)
What are we prepared to do so that the good news might go out?
Will we support our preachers and teachers financially? Will we adjust so that we can engage with those around us. Speaking where they are. Adapting our language – but not our message – so that they can hear us? Will we put our money where our mouth is, and our mouth where the need is?
“Dear Lord, thank you for the precious message that we have. Thank you for new life. Thanks that in Your mercy we have been privileged to hear and respond and gain a crown that will last forever. Give us such a love for You and love for our neighbours that we would generously support our churches. Help us do the hard work of giving the message in ways that meet our culture in intelligible, engaging, and life-changing ways. Give us all the energy an conviction we need to do this we pray Lord. Amen.”
Grace and peace,